Every year, Beloit College publishes "The Mindset List." The school created the list to remind professors that the life experiences of the incoming class are far different from the faculty's life experiences. It's also a good reminder for employers. The new grads will see things differently from the way the experienced workers will. It's not just because of lack of experience, but rather different experience.
The following factors influence the mindset of the members of this year's entering freshman class:
- When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think Harry Potter, not John Lennon.
- During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
- Hong Kong has always been part of China.
- Ads for prescription drugs, noting their disturbing side effects, have always flooded the airwaves.
- There has always been a national database of sex offenders.
But what about your entering class? What about the new grads you hired this summer or will hire in the near future? Beloit's list for the class of 2014 contains some things you may not have thought about when you hired them. Here are some that might affect how you do business.
Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail. Texting and IMing are the way to go for the new grad. Don't be surprised if email begins to lose its value as a communication tool in your office.
"Go West, Young College Grad" has always implied "and don't stop until you get to Asia … and learn Chinese along the way." The mindset has changed from US-based to globe-based. Most startups are already operating this way, but older firms may need to start changing their mindsets.
Entering college this fall in a country where a quarter of young people under 18 have at least one immigrant parent, they aren't afraid of immigration … unless it involves aliens from another planet. Just as China isn't a scary threat, neither are immigrants. Many of the freshmen and their friends are immigrants or the children of immigrants. This also gives them a global mindset. Additionally, more so than the immigrants in earlier years, the parents have a desire to maintain cultures from the country of origin rather than saying, "We're in America now. We'll do it the American way."
The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs. The sources of information are endless for new grads, and have almost always been so. Their news comes from the source that they like the best, and it may not be the one you like the best. Be prepared for some clashes over what is going on in the world.
Rock bands have always played at Presidential inaugural parties. There aren't such straight lines between "proper" society and "casual" society. This means that you may get blank looks when you try to explain why you shouldn't send text messages to the senior VP using text speak and, in fact, probably shouldn't send them at all (unless the senior VP initiates it).
If you're aware of how your new employees think, you'll have better luck understanding them. If you can understand your staff, you'll be able to communicate better. Of course, you could also demand that they understand you. Just don't start with, "Well, when I was your age …"